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Old February 21st, 2011, 03:41 AM   #1

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From: George Town Tasmania Australia
Posts: 204
Pocock, gibbon and history

The year I joined the Baha’i Faith, 1959, J.G.A. Pocock(1924-) established and chaired the Department of Political Science at Canterbury New Zealand. Forty years later, the year I retired from FT work as a teacher, Pocock published the first of a series of volumes on Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall. Pocock was by then in his seventies. The first two volumes of Pocock's projected six-volume series on Edward Gibbon, Barbarism and Religion, won the American Philosophical Society's Jacques Barzun Prize in Cultural History for the year 1999. I did not come across Pocock's work until more than a decade later in the years of my retirement from FT, PT and volunteer work.

Edward Gibbon had, since my university days in the '60s, been one of my favorite, if not my favorite, of historians. In 2011 my son gave me the first critical edition of the Decline and Fall, in three volumes, edited by David Womersley. Reading Womersley’s introduction has led to this brief prose-poem.

For commentary on Gibbon's irony and insistence on primary sources, Womersley’s "Introduction" is excellent. While the larger part of Gibbon's caustic view of Christianity is declared within the text of chapters XV and XVI, Gibbon rarely neglects to note that religion's baleful influence throughout the remaining volumes of the Decline and Fall.-Ron Price with thanks to Wikipedia, 21 February 2011.

I’ve been getting back into Gibbon
lately since receiving a delightful
gift from my son and enjoying the
writing of David Womersley.....The
history of the West has been a long
and complex story which I really
only began to get my teeth into in
the 1950s and 1960s...Gibbon was
and is a stylistic triumph and a tour
de force
for the mind to play with
if one has a preoccupation and an
appetite for history as a theatre for
human passion, material comfort to
make use of one’s leisure time, and
the desire to consolidate the sense
of identity that comes from learning
and the cultural attainments of mind.(1)

(1) Abdul-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, Wilmette, 1975(1957), p. 35.

Ron Price
21 February 2011

Last edited by RonPrice; February 21st, 2011 at 03:46 AM. Reason: to add some words
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Old February 21st, 2011, 04:35 AM   #2

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Nice post Ron. I prefer AJP Taylor and Hobsbawm myself, but your posting has piqued my interest in Gibbon.

[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FUngG2CRYdY&feature=related]YouTube - AJP Taylor: The Origins of the Second World War[/ame]

Please explain to me what Baha'i is?
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Old February 21st, 2011, 09:13 AM   #3

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Originally Posted by RonPrice View Post
... Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall ...
Here it is if anyone likes -

Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: Master Index

Maybe in the future there will be a pill one can take that will automatically transfer all that to one's brain.
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Old February 21st, 2011, 11:02 AM   #4

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I'm tackling Gibbon myself right now. I'm about 80 pages in, and I'm loving it.
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Old February 21st, 2011, 03:18 PM   #5

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Thanks For Your Responses Folks

Thanks, Lucius, flaxman and pixi666, for your fast responses to my post. Gibbon has always been difficult for me. AJP Taylor and Hobsbawm are much easier to read. Gibbon for me is and was like Toynbee. Both are very difficult compared to most other historians. To each their own in history as in other disciplines as in life, I might add, with human personalities. I will add below a little bit of background on "my life with history."-Ron

In high school, 1958-1963, I studied Latin for four years and part of one history course involved ancient history. In university, 1963-1967, I took one course in ancient history and two of the philosophy courses brought me in touch with the philosophy of the ancients. In the next 21 years, 1967-1988 the years before I taught ancient history myself, long range historical perspectives came into many of the courses I taught, but I can not recall now precisely the names of those courses as well as in what ways and with what content ancient history was part of those programs except, of course, in a broad interdisciplinary sense in which knowing what happened in western civilization is always useful.

From 1989 to 1994 I taught ancient history, Ancient Greece(478 to 404 BC) one year and Ancient Rome(133 BC to 14 AD) the next. It was a matriculation subject producing several volumes of notes for each of the programs. Teaching these subjects over this six year period brought me into my first serious and extended exposure to classical civilization. It occurred at the time when the Mt. Carmel Project was in full swing for the Baha'i community in which I had been involved in various ways for half a century by then.

In the sixteen years(1995-2011) since completing my teaching of this course I have drawn on these notes and added to them significantly. The subject of classical civilization is of great interest to me particularly since there are obviously so many parallels to my own world. Such a study also provides, I find, many helpful perspectives for understanding the Baha’i Faith, its history and future, my central organizational commitment in life.

I studied Latin from 1959 to 1963, some ancient history(part of one course) at high school and at university(one course). Ancient Greece and Rome came into my reading again and again from 1964 to 1994 when, in December, my formal teaching of the subject came to an end. Now, sixteen years later(1995-2011), I have added much more reading and I possess a greater grounding in this field, although I am far from being what you could call a serious student of the history of the western classical tradition. There is just too much to consider and my academic interests are far too eclectic. With all the other subjects now striving to find a place under my academic belt, I can not expect to have more that a working knowledge for: (a) my pleasure and (b) my use in understanding the present world.

I have taught many subjects in my more than thirty years of teaching and classical history, literature and philosophy did not occupy a place in these teaching experiences except incidentally from time to time. But classical studies has come to occupy a place of interest now that I have retired and no longer teach full-time or part-time. It is a place of interest I return to occasionally with varying degrees of interest. Of course, this is true of all subjects. Interest is a key and is a variable.

There was a core to build on in December 1994 and that is what I have been doing for these last sixteen years since I stopped teaching ancient history five years before retiring from full-time work as a professional teacher. I have been adding more and more material to this core now that ancient history has come to occupy this place, however peripheral, in my post-retirement studies.

Given the variety of my other academic interests I will remain for the most part only an interested observer of the field. Expertise, it would seem, will not be granted to me in any subject. A generalist I have been and a generalist I will remain. Given the great burgeoning in the social sciences and humanities in the last half century and given the advice ‘Abdu’l-Baha places before His readers in Secret of Divine Civilization[1] for students to acquire a “comprehensive knowledge,” it seems only appropriate that I be a generalist.

Ron Price
27 June 2008
Updated for: Historum
On: 22/2/'11
[1] ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Secret of Divine Civilization, Wilmette, 1970, pp.35-6.

Last edited by RonPrice; February 21st, 2011 at 03:19 PM. Reason: to add some words
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Old July 16th, 2011, 03:27 AM   #6

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Belated apologies, flaxman, for not getting back to you on your question about Baha'i. If you go to the official international Baha'i site, at bahai.org, you will get enough information to give you all you need and save me filling this box to overflowing.-Ron in Tasmania
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Old July 16th, 2011, 04:10 PM   #7

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Hello Ron,

I read an abridged version of Gibbon (still over 1000 pages of tiny print!) for the first time this year, and I loved it. I soon hope to make a start on the complete books. I'd heard so much about his irony and wit that I knew I'd enjoy his prose - what surprised me was how forward-looking he was as a historian. Not only is he a master of detail, but he uses epigraphy and numismatics as primary sources, and he's good on things one wouldn't naturally expect an 18th Century historian to be good on - namely, the more systemic aspects of how the Empire actually ran. I think his work really points the way forward to a number of very significant approaches that have now become standard in ancient history. Really an exceptional writer.
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Old July 16th, 2011, 06:15 PM   #8

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From: George Town Tasmania Australia
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Well Said, Clodius

Well Said, Clodius! After nearly 50 years of reading Gibbon it is his writing that I now read him for. Although I taught ancient history for years, I have come to appreciate his way of expressing ideas and facts. Still, I can only read a few pages at a time, but that is true of many writers now in the evening of my life. I seem to have to go from one source to another to keep the spirit and the ball alive.-Ron
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